Introduction to PETE HOIDA's RECENT PAINTINGS at Ashcroft Modern Art, September 2006
Pete Hoida, a seasoned abstract painter of uncompromising verve and boldness, exhibits recent
canvases produced at his studio in the hills above Stroud since the millennium. They broadly
divide into two genera. The painterly and loosely constructed horizontal pictures like ‘Lesson
on the Flood-tide’ (2005) and ‘Sobhrach’ (2006) use long formats, naturalistic colour, movement
and flux that evoke associations, if of an oblique and fortuitous kind, with landscape. The more
obviously formally ordered, even geometric compositions like ‘The Return’ (2002), ‘Vulcan’ (2003)
and ‘Mercury’ (2005) on the other hand complement their quiet containment with textural and
tactile explicitness through collage and coarse thickening agents like volcanic lava.
The imagery is abstract in the sense that nothing is described beyond the plastic language of paint as
a tactile and moving substance capable of producing sensations both of a spatial and illusionistic or
concrete kind. The titles are always ex post facto, sometimes fanciful, frequently poetic (Hoida had
collections of poetry published by Alison & Busby, Penguin, Pig Press, Poet & Peasant) and always adding
to an air of pictorial inscrutability that requires, indeed demands, imaginative input from the spectator.
In both the gestural and hard edge compositions there is an internal dynamic and interrelationship between
elements, the whole being more than the sum of the parts.
The age-old process and act of laying paint down on a flat surface is therefore an immediate and paramount
feature of these compositions, the scudding brush marks, floating ‘carpets’ of colour or soft rectangles of
‘Uisghé’ (2004) and 'Sedge-leveller' (2005) creating a structural synergy. The
gestural and painterly sweeps, whether long and streaky or saturated and pigment-loaded, seldom carry the
entire picture surface, rather they highlight the importance of illusion, plastic narrative ambiguity and
mystery. Developing as an artist against a backdrop of late modernist minimalism – an aesthetic cul-de-sac,
yet of a universal stylistic impact – Hoida creates objects that temper subjectivity and expression with
formal and architectonic imperatives of the picture plane conceived as a concrete and absolute piece of
décor within the wider domestic environment.
Hoida’s colour, like many artists’, has an individual ring to it. A tendency – through recurring use of black,
dark grey, purple and brown – towards a sombre mood reflects Hoida’s roots that are both northern and mid
European. Born in Birkenhead of Czech and Scottish parentage, Hoida uses a palette that is perhaps
temperamentally linked to his background. The hot and phosphorescent palettes of Irvin and Hoyland,
respectively, are avoided. His closest allegiance is to that group of London-based abstract expressionist
painters – among them his friends Alan Gouk and Paul Tonkin – associated with the Stockwell Depot in the
1970s and since based around Greenwich and Deptford. The evidence in Hoida’s latest works is that he has
absorbed something from Ivon Hitchens and Patrick Heron and beyond them from de Stael in France and Hofmann
Despite appearances to the contrary, Hoida’s pictures are slow in the making. Marks and colours once
established lead on to others until the unpredictable is achieved. In the smaller canvases, such as the
playful ‘Little Eye’ (2000), ‘Putto’ (2004) and 'Cullen Gull' (2004) an abstract
image is created from simple, flat, undifferentiated brushmarks that are far away from the explosive informalism
of tachism. Hoida’s mood is here tranquil fulfilling his declaration that “painting is a formal exercise” in
the pursuit of “resonance that speaks of emotion in the face of the visual”.
© PETER DAVIES, September 2006
Reproduced from the original document published by Ashcroft Modern Art, 2006